When you see us swarm — rustle of wingbeat, collapsed air — your mind tries to make us one, a common intelligence, a single spirit un- tethered. You imagine us merely searching out the next vessel, anything that could contain us, as if the hive were just another jar. You try to hold the ending, this unspooling, make it either zero or many, lack or flurry. I was born, you begin, & already each word makes you smaller. Look at this field — Cosmos. Lungwort. Utter each & break into a thousand versions of yourself. You can't tell your stories fast enough. The answer is not one, but also not two.
A black river flows down the center of each page & on either side the banks are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling in tiny blossoms, a bottle wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe that if I get the story right we will rise, newly formed, that I will stand over him again as he sleeps outside under the church halogen only this time I will know what to say. It is night & it's snowing & starlings fill the trees above us, so many it seems the leaves sing. I can't see them until they rise together at some hidden signal & hold the shape of the tree for a moment before scattering. I wait for his breath to lift his blanket so I know he's alive, letting the story settle into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park begin to sing something holy, a song with a lost room inside it as their prayerbook comes unglued & scatters. I'll bend each finger back, until the bottle falls, until the bone snaps, save him by destroying his hands. With the thaw the river will rise & he will be forced to higher ground. No one will have to tell him. From my roof I can see the East River, it looks blackened with oil but it's only the light. Even now my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed the river north I could still reach him.